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QAnon flag at a Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Virginia, in 2020

QAnon[a] (/ˈkj.əˌnɒn/) is an American far-right political conspiracy theory and movement centered on false claims made by an anonymous individual or individuals, known by the name "Q", that a cabal of Satanic,[1][2][3] cannibalistic pedophiles operate a global child sex trafficking ring that conspired against the former U.S. President Donald Trump during his term in office.[2][3][4][5] Experts have described QAnon as a cult.[6]


One shared belief among QAnon members is that Trump was planning a massive sting operation on the cabal, with mass arrests of thousands of cabal members to take place on a day known as the "Storm".[7][8] QAnon supporters have baselessly accused many Hollywood actors, Democratic politicians, and high-ranking government officials of being members of the cabal.[9] QAnon has also claimed that Trump simulated the conspiracy of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to enlist Robert Mueller to join him in exposing the sex trafficking ring, and preventing a coup d'état by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros.[10][11] Some of QAnon's claims have been described as antisemitic or rooted in antisemitic tropes.[12][13] QAnon's conspiracy theories have been amplified by Russian and Chinese state-backed media companies and social media troll accounts[20][14][21][22] and the Falun Gong-associated Epoch Media Group.[23][24][25]

Although preceded by similar viral conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate,[26][27] which has since become part of QAnon, the conspiracy theory began with an October 2017 post on the anonymous imageboard website 4chan, by "Q" (or "QAnon"), who was presumably an American individual;[28] it is now possible that "Q" has become supported and/or mirrored by a group of people acting under the same name who have a connection to Trump.[29][30] A stylometric analysis of Q posts claims to have uncovered that at least two people wrote as "Q" in different periods.[31][32] Q claimed to be a high-level government official with Q clearance, who has access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the United States.[33] NBC News reported that three people took the original Q post and shortly thereafter spread it across multiple media platforms to build an Internet following for profit. QAnon was preceded by several similar anonymous 4chan posters, such as FBIAnon, HLIAnon (High-Level Insider), CIAAnon, and WH Insider Anon.[34] Although American in origin, there is now a considerable QAnon movement outside of the United States, including in the United Kingdom and France since 2020,[35] with a "particularly strong and growing" movement in Germany and Japan.[36] Japanese QAnon adherents are also known as "JAnon" (Japanese: Jアノン).[37]

QAnon adherents began appearing at Trump reelection campaign rallies in August 2018.[38] Bill Mitchell, a broadcaster who has promoted QAnon, attended a White House "social media summit" in July 2019.[39][40] QAnon believers commonly tag their social media posts with the hashtag #WWG1WGA, signifying the motto "Where We Go One, We Go All", derived from the 1996 film White Squall.[41] At an August 2019 Trump rally, a man warming up the crowd used the QAnon motto, later denying that it was a QAnon reference. This occurred hours after the FBI published a report calling QAnon a potential source of domestic terrorism, the first time the agency had so rated a fringe conspiracy theory.[42][43] According to analysis by Media Matters for America, as of October 2020, Trump had amplified QAnon messaging at least 265 times by retweeting or mentioning 152 Twitter accounts affiliated with QAnon, sometimes multiple times a day.[44][45] QAnon followers came to refer to Trump as "Q+".[46]

The number of QAnon adherents is unclear,[3][47] but the group maintains a large online following.[2][3] The imageboard website 8chan (rebranded to 8kun in 2019) is QAnon's online home, as it is the only place Q posts messages.[48][49] In June 2020, Q exhorted followers in a post on 8chan to take a "digital soldiers oath"; many did, using the Twitter hashtag #TakeTheOath.[50] In July 2020, Twitter banned thousands of QAnon-affiliated accounts and changed its algorithms to reduce the conspiracy theory's spread.[51] A Facebook internal analysis reported in August 2020 found millions of followers across thousands of groups and pages; Facebook acted later that month to remove and restrict QAnon activity,[52][53] and in October it said it would ban the conspiracy theory from its platform altogether.[54] Followers had also migrated to dedicated message boards including EndChan, where they organized to wage information warfare in an attempt to influence the 2020 United States presidential election.[55][56]

After Trump lost the election to Joe Biden, updates from Q declined dramatically, with the last post by Q made in December 2020.[57][failed verification] QAnon beliefs became a part of attempts to overturn the election, culminating in Trump supporters attacking the United States Capitol, leading to a further crackdown on QAnon-related content on social media.[58][59][60] On the day of Biden's inauguration, Ron Watkins, a former site administrator for 8chan and a de facto leader among QAnon adherents, suggested it was time to "go back to our lives as best we are able".[61][62] Other QAnon adherents believed that Biden's inauguration was "part of the plan".[62]



David Goldberg Twitter

Rumors stirring in the NYPD that Huma's emails point to a pedophila ring and @HillaryClinton is at the center. #GoHillary #PodestaEmails23

October 30, 2016[63]

On October 30, 2016, a Twitter account posting antisemitic and white supremacist material[64] which said it was run by a Jewish New York lawyer falsely claimed that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) had discovered a pedophilia ring linked to members of the Democratic Party while searching through Anthony Weiner's emails.[65][66] Throughout October and November 2016, WikiLeaks had published John Podesta's emails. Proponents of the conspiracy theory read the emails and alleged they contained code words for pedophilia and human trafficking.[67][68] Proponents also claimed that Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., was a meeting ground for Satanic ritual abuse.[69]

Deriving its name from the Watergate scandal, the story was later posted on fake news websites, starting with Your News Wire, which cited a 4chan post from earlier that year. The Your News Wire article was subsequently spread by pro-Trump websites, including, which added the claim that the NYPD had raided Hillary Clinton's property.[65] The Conservative Daily Post ran a headline claiming the Federal Bureau of Investigation had confirmed the conspiracy theory.[70]


In its most basic sense, an "anon" is an anonymous or pseudonymous Internet poster.[71] The concept of anons "doing research" and claiming to disclose otherwise classified information, while a key component of the QAnon conspiracy theory, is by no means exclusive to it. Before Q, a number of so-called anons also claimed to have special government access. On July 2, 2016, the anonymous poster "FBIAnon", a self-described "high-level analyst and strategist" who claimed to have "intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Clinton case", began posting false information about the 2016 investigation into the Clinton Foundation and claimed that Hillary Clinton would be imprisoned if Trump became president. Around that time, "HLIAnon", standing for "High Level Insider Anon", hosted long question-and-answer sessions, dispensing various conspiracy theories, including that Princess Diana was murdered after trying to stop the September 11 attacks. Soon after the 2016 United States elections, two anonymous posters, "CIAAnon" and "CIAIntern", falsely claimed to be high-ranking Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers, and in late August 2017, "WHInsiderAnon" offered a supposed preview that something that was "going to go down" regarding leaks that would affect the Democratic Party.[34]

Influence of 4chan culture

/htg/ or "Human Trafficking General" threads on the /pol/ board of 4chan have been called "the missing link" between Pizzagate and QAnon. Instead of focusing on a limited supply of email material to comb through, the /htg/ culture allowed users to actively participate in the imagined storylines. A key /htg/ poster was Anonymous 5 (also known as "Frank"), who claimed to be a child prostitution investigator. But the lack of a coherent narrative was a constraint on the /htg/ trend, and it never achieved Pizzagate's popularity.[72]

The main tenets of the QAnon ideology were already present at 4chan before Q's appearance, including claims that Hillary Clinton was directly involved in a pedophile ring, that Robert Mueller was secretly working with Trump, and that large-scale military tribunals were imminent. His posts specifically targeted individuals who were highly hated in the community beforehand, namely Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros. The idea of the "Storm", central to the QAnon canon, was claimed to have been copied from another poster named Victory of the Light, who predicted the "Event", in which mass, televised arrests of the "Cabal" were forthcoming.[72]

Origin and spread

A block letter "Q" overlaid with an American flag pattern
A common logo used by QAnon followers

A user named "Q Clearance Patriot" first appeared on the /pol/ board of 4chan on October 28, 2017, posting in a thread titled "Calm Before the Storm",[28] a reference to Trump's cryptic description of a gathering of United States military leaders he attended as "the calm before the storm".[28][73] The "Storm" became QAnon parlance for an imminent event in which thousands of alleged suspects will be arrested, imprisoned, and executed for being child-eating pedophiles.[7] The poster's username implied that they hold Q clearance,[74][75] a United States Department of Energy security clearance required to access Top Secret information on nuclear weapons and materials.[76] An Internet community soon developed around interpreting and analyzing posts attributed to Q, and among these conspiracy theorists, several individuals became minor celebrities within the community.[77][78]

In November 2017, Paul Furber, Coleman Rogers, and Tracy Diaz, two 4chan moderators and a YouTuber respectively, worked together to propagate QAnon to a wider audience.[79][80] Some QAnon followers have accused the trio of profiting off of the movement.[34] The three then created a Reddit community that was influential in spreading the conspiracy theory until they were banned and the subreddit was closed in March 2018, which Reddit explained was due to incitement of violence and posting private information.[34] QAnon spread to other social media, including Twitter and YouTube.[77] Rogers and his wife, Christina Urso, launched Patriots' Soapbox, a YouTube livestream dedicated to QAnon, which they used to solicit donations. Its guests have included Congress member Lauren Boebert and a Trump campaign publicist.[79] Posts by Q later moved to 8chan, with Q citing concerns that the 4chan board had been "infiltrated".[34] 8chan was shut down in August 2019 after it was connected with the 2019 El Paso shooting and other violent incidents, leading adherents of QAnon to move to Endchan and later a revived 8chan, now known as 8kun.[46][56]

QAnon first received attention from mainstream press in December 2017, and in the early months of 2018 the conspiracy theory received traction from the mainstream right. Television host Sean Hannity and entertainer Roseanne Barr spread news about QAnon to their social media followers. InfoWars host and far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed to be in personal contact with Q. The presence en masse of QAnon adherents at a July 2018 Trump rally for the midterm elections in Tampa, Florida, marked the conspiracy theory's entry into the mainstream.[26][77] Some Christian pastors have introduced their congregations to QAnon ideas, with at least one ministry combining QAnon and Christianity in its services.[81]

Sites dedicated to aggregating these Q posts, also called Qdrops, became essential for their dissemination and spread. QMap was the most popular and famous aggregator, run by a pseudonymous developer and overall key QAnon figure known as "QAPPANON".[82][83] But QMap shut down shortly after a September 2020 report was published by the fact-checking website Logically, which theorized that QAPPANON was a New Jersey-based security analyst named Jason Gelinas.[83][84]

According to a Reuters report, Russian-backed social media accounts propagated early QAnon claims as early as November or December 2017.[17] Russian government-funded Russian state media such as RT and Sputnik have amplified the conspiracy theory since 2019, citing QAnon as evidence that the United States is riven by internal strife and division.[14][21] In 2021, a report from the Soufan Center, a research group focused on national security, found that one-fifth of 166,820 QAnon posts in the US between January 2020 and February 2021 originated in foreign countries, primarily Russia and China, and that China has surpassed Russia as the "primary foreign actor touting QAnon-narratives online".[22][85][86][87]

International following

Between March and June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, QAnon activity nearly tripled on Facebook and nearly doubled on Instagram and Twitter.[88] By that time, QAnon had spread to Europe, from the Netherlands to the Balkan Peninsula. It maintains an especially strong following in Germany. Far-right activists and influencers have created a German audience for QAnon on YouTube, Facebook, and Telegram estimated at 200,000. One German Reichsbürger group adopted QAnon to promote its belief that modern Germany is not a sovereign republic, but rather a corporation created by Allied nations after World War II, and expressed its hope that Trump would lead an army to restore the Reich.[89] In Russia, a similar conspiracy theory, the "Union of Slavic Forces of Russia" or "Soviet Citizens" – which claims the Russian Federation is a Delaware-based LLC that occupies the legal territory of the Soviet Union – also became susceptible to QAnon beliefs.[90] Many Canadians have also propagated QAnon,[91][92][93] and one in four Britons are said to believe in QAnon-related theories, though only six percent support QAnon.[94] Charlie Ward and Martin Geddes are listed by Hope not Hate as influential British promoters of QAnon, with Geddes "[running] one of the most popular QAnon Twitter accounts in the world".[95]

The movement has also spread to Spain and Latin America,[96] with countries like Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Paraguay and Brazil having an online presence.[97] According to an investigation by Costa Rica's largest newspaper, La Nación, its Facebook page spreads misinformation and fake news, calls to depose President Carlos Alvarado and extols right-wing figures like far right presidential candidate Juan Diego Castro Fernández and controversial deputies Dragos Dolanescu Valenciano and Erick Rodríguez Steller.[98] In Spain, the far-right Vox party was accused of endorsing anti-Biden conspiracy theories linked to QAnon in its Twitter account by claiming that Biden was the candidate "preferred by pedophiles".[99] An RTVE news report found that most Spanish QAnon supporters identified Vox as their preferred political party.[100]

University of Southern California professor and data scientist Emilio Ferrara found that about 25% of accounts that use QAnon hashtags and retweet InfoWars and One America News Network are bots.[101]

Polling and demographics

In February 2021, a poll by the American Enterprise Institute found that 29% of Republicans believe the central claim of QAnon, that "Donald Trump has been secretly fighting a group of child sex traffickers that include prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites."[102] A March 2021 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and Interfaith Youth Core found similar results: Republicans (28%) were twice as likely as Democrats (14%) to agree that the "elites" would soon be swept from power by a coming "storm"; Republicans (23%) were three times as likely as Democrats (8%) to agree that "Satan-worshipping pedophiles" control the government and media; and Republicans (28%) were four times as likely as Democrats (7%) to agree that "true American patriots may have to resort to violence" to resolve the situation.[103]

Pastel QAnon is a collection of techniques aimed predominantly at indoctrinating women into the conspiracy theory, mainly on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram and TikTok.[104][105] It uses feminine-coded aesthetics (including a pastel color palette, from which it gets its name), language, activities and communities, and uses gateway messaging to frame the conspiracies as reasonable concerns.[106][104] Concordia University, Canada, researcher Marc-André Argentino identified the trend.[107]

Conspiracy claims

The conspiracy theory has been widely characterized as "baseless"[108] and "evidence-free".[109] Its proponents have been called "a deranged conspiracy cult"[11] and "some of the Internet's most outré [unconventional] Trump fans".[110] It is disseminated mainly by Trump supporters, who refer to the Storm and the Great Awakening. QAnon's precepts and vocabulary are closely related to the religious concepts of millenarianism and apocalypticism,[3] leading it to be sometimes construed as an emerging religious movement.[46] QAnon's adherents, while seeing Trump as a flawed Christian, also view him as a messiah sent by God.[2][21]

According to Travis View, a host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast who has studied the theory and written about it extensively for The Washington Post, the essence of the conspiracy theory is that:

... there is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who rule the world, essentially, and they control everything. They control politicians, and they control the media. They control Hollywood, and they cover up their existence, essentially. And they would have continued ruling the world, were it not for the election of President Donald Trump. Now, Donald Trump in this conspiracy theory knows all about this evil cabal's wrongdoing. But one of the reasons that Donald Trump was elected was to put an end to them, basically. And now we would be ignorant of this behind-the-scenes battle of Donald Trump and the U.S. military – that everyone backs him and the evil cabal – were it not for "Q". And what "Q" is is basically a poster on 4chan, who later moved to 8chan, who reveals details about this secret behind-the-scenes battle, and also secrets about what the cabal is doing and also the mass sort of upcoming arrest events through these posts.[7]

Followers of QAnon also believe that there is an imminent event known as the "Storm", when thousands of members of the cabal will be arrested and possibly sent to Guantanamo Bay prison or to face military tribunals, and the U.S. military will brutally take over the country.[7] The result will be salvation and utopia on earth.[111]

Some QAnon adherents have also expressed belief in the reptilian conspiracy theory, asserting that the Satanic cabal alleged to be in power consists of shapeshifting reptilian humanoids.[112]

Failed predictions

HRC extradition already in motion effective yesterday with several countries in case of cross border run. Passport approved to be flagged effective 10/30 @ 12:01 am. Expect massive riots organized in defiance and others fleeing the US to occur. US M's will conduct the operation while NG activated. Proof check: Locate a NG member and ask if activated for duty 10/30 across most major cities.

—QAnon's first post on the /pol/ message board of 4chan, on October 28, 2017[113]

QAnon's first prediction was that Hillary Clinton was about to be arrested and would attempt to flee the country. This prediction failed. Other failed predictions include:[114]

  1. The "Storm" would take place on November 3, 2017. There were no notable events in US politics on that day.
  2. A major event involving the Department of Defense would take place on February 1, 2018. No significant event involving the department happened that day.
  3. People targeted by the president would commit suicide en masse on February 10, 2018. No prominent people committed suicide that day.
  4. There would be a car bombing in London around February 16, 2018. There was no bombing.
  5. A "smoking gun" video of Hillary Clinton would emerge in March 2018. No video appeared.
  6. Something major would happen in Chongqing on April 10, 2018. Nothing notable happened in Chongqing that day.
  7. There would be a "bombshell" revelation about North Korea in May 2018. There were no notable developments.
  8. The "Storm" would take place on January 20, 2021, the day of Biden's inauguration. No coup took place and Biden was peacefully inaugurated.[115]
  9. The Trump military parade would "never be forgotten". The parade was canceled.
  10. The Five Eyes "won't be around much longer". The Five Eyes still exists as of October 2021.
  11. Multiple failed predictions that John McCain would resign from the US Senate. McCain remained in the Senate until his death in August 2018.
  12. Multiple failed predictions that Mark Zuckerberg would leave Facebook and flee the United States. Zuckerberg remains CEO of Facebook.
  13. Multiple failed predictions that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey would be forced to resign "next" (in the context of the prediction of Zuckerberg's resignation). Dorsey remained CEO of Twitter until November 2021, when he was replaced by Parag Agrawal.
  14. Multiple failed predictions that Pope Francis would be arrested on felony charges. Francis has not been arrested and remains Pope.
  15. Multiple failed predictions that "something big" would happen or the truth would emerge "next week".
  16. Multiple failed predictions that Donald Trump would be re-inaugurated on January 20, 2021, despite losing the election. Joe Biden was inaugurated as planned on January 20.[116]
  17. Donald Trump would be inaugurated on March 4, 2021, as the 19th president. This claim stems from a conspiracy theory stating that the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 made the United States into a corporation (a theory developed by the sovereign citizen movement).[117] Therefore, Trump would have been inaugurated as the 19th president (after Ulysses S. Grant) and the country would cease to be a corporation and once again become the country started by the Founding Fathers.[118][119] March 4 is the inauguration date because the 20th Amendment changed the date to January 20, and no amendments to the U.S. Constitution since 1869 are recognized.[120] Joe Biden remains the incumbent president of the United States, counted as the 46th.
  18. Donald Trump would be inaugurated again on March 20, 2021. After this failed to transpire, QAnon "delayed" the "re-inauguration" date to August 13,[121] which also failed. Biden remains president.
  19. John F. Kennedy (35th President of the United States, who was assassinated in 1963) or his son John F. Kennedy Jr. (who died in a plane crash in 1999), unspecified in the conspiracy theory, would resurrect (or appear in front of a crowd) in Dallas on November 2, 2021, and announce the reinstatement of Donald Trump as president and the installation of Kennedy Jr. as vice president.[122]

False claims

As well as the failed predictions, Q has posted numerous false, baseless, and unsubstantiated claims, such as:

  1. That the CIA installed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a puppet ruler.[123]
  2. A February 16, 2018, false claim that U.S. representative and former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz hired Salvadoran gang MS-13 to murder DNC staffer Seth Rich.[73][124]
  3. A March 1, 2018, apparent suggestion that German chancellor Angela Merkel is Adolf Hitler's granddaughter.[125]
  4. A July 7, 2018, Daily Beast article noted that Q falsely claimed that "each mass shooting is a false-flag attack organized by the cabal."[9]
  5. That Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and others are planning a coup against Trump and are involved in an international child sex-trafficking ring.[126][127]
  6. That the Mueller investigation is actually a counter-coup led by Trump, who pretended to conspire with Russia in order to hire Mueller to secretly investigate the Democrats.[11]
  7. That the Rothschild family leads a satanic cult.[10] Similar political allegations and rumors have circulated since the 1970s. Typically the allegations revolved around investigators using existing Satanic cults to lure and blackmail left-wing activists, or in the case of the Franklin child prostitution ring allegations, Satanic sexual abuse perpetrated by elite Republicans. A significant difference between the older narratives and the QAnon of today is that now elite Democrats are considered the villains instead of Republicans.[128]

Evolution of Q's claims

Q's posts have become more cryptic and vague, allowing followers to map their own beliefs onto them.[129] Some posts include strings of characters that are allegedly coded messages.

On multiple occasions, Q has dismissed their false claims and incorrect predictions as deliberate, claiming that "disinformation is necessary".[130][131][132] This has led Australian psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky to emphasize the "self-sealing" quality of the conspiracy theory, highlighting its anonymous purveyor's use of plausible deniability and noting that evidence against it "can become evidence of [its] validity in the minds of believers".[113] Author Walter Kirn has described Q as an innovator among conspiracy theorists by enthralling readers with "clues" rather than presenting claims directly: "The audience for internet narratives doesn't want to read, it wants to write. It doesn't want answers provided, it wants to search for them."[133]

Link to Miracle Mineral Solution

QAnon conspiracy theorists have touted drinking an industrial bleach (known as MMS, or Miracle Mineral Solution) as a "miracle cure" for COVID-19.[134][135][136]

Usage of #SaveTheChildren and Freedom for the Children

"#SAVEOURCHILDREN" graffiti on a bridge in Lufkin, Texas

As in Pizzagate, QAnon followers believe that children are being abducted in large numbers to supply a child trafficking ring. By 2020, some followers began using the Twitter hashtag #SaveTheChildren (#SaveOurChildren was also used),[137] coopting a trademarked name for the child welfare organization Save the Children, leading to an August 7 statement by Save the Children on the unauthorized use of its name in campaigns.[138] Data from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children indicates that the overwhelming majority of missing children are runaways; the second-largest cause is abduction by family members. Less than 1% are abductions by non-family members.[139][140] In September, Facebook and Instagram tried to prevent #SaveTheChildren being associated with QAnon by redirecting users who searched for the hashtag towards the child welfare group;[141] in October, Facebook announced that it would try to limit the hashtag's reach.[142] In the same timeframe, QAnon followers also created a conspiracy theory claiming that furniture company Wayfair had secret arrangements to sell and ship victims of child trafficking.[143][144]

Similarly, "Freedom for the Children" groups both in the US and in the UK helped organize street protests that they say are raising awareness of child sexual abuse and human trafficking.[145][146] These protests tend to attract a more diverse and younger crowd than typical QAnon groups, including many people who do not fully believe all aspects of the QAnon conspiracy theory,[147] and have often been able to avoid social media restrictions.[148]

Identity of Q

A modified version of the American flag with ten white stars and three gold stars forming a letter Q in the canton
A QAnon flag based on the flag of the United States[149]

Some researchers believe the pseudonymous identity known as Q has been controlled by multiple people in cooperation.[79] A stylometric analysis has suggested that two people likely wrote Q's posts during different periods.[31][32] An analysis of metadata of images posted by Q found that they were likely posted by someone in the Pacific Time Zone.[150]

By design, anonymous imageboards such as 4chan and 8chan obscure their posters' identities.[79][151] Those who wish to prove a consistent identity between posts while remaining anonymous can use a tripcode, which associates a post with a unique digital signature for any poster who knows the password.[46][152] There have been thousands of posts associated with a Q tripcode, known as "Q drops".[46] The tripcode associated with Q has changed several times, creating uncertainty about the poster's continuous identity.[46] Passwords on 8chan are also easy to crack, and the Q tripcode has been repeatedly compromised and used by people pretending to be Q.[153] When 8chan returned as 8kun in November 2019 after several months of downtime, the Q posting on 8kun posted photos of a pen and notebook that had been pictured in earlier 8chan posts to show the continuation of the Q identity, and continued to use Q's 8chan tripcode.[46]

There has been much speculation about Q's motives and identity. A range of theories, held by both QAnon believers and critics, credit Q's posts to sources including a military intelligence officer, a Trump administration insider, an alternate reality game created by the puzzle organization Cicada 3301, a left-wing artist collective, or Trump himself.[29][78][154][155]

Watkins family

Outside the US. Capitol during the January 6, 2021, riot, a Trump supporter carries a placard depicting Jesus in a MAGA hat with the QAnon hashtag "#WWG1WGA" visible in the lower right.

Since the Q tripcode was uniquely verified by 8chan's server and not reproducible on other imageboards, and Q did not have another means of communication, Q was not able to post when the website went down after the 2019 El Paso shooting.[156] This apparent conflict of interest, combined with statements by 8chan's founder Fredrick Brennan, the use of a "Q" collar pin by 8chan owner Jim Watkins, and Watkins's financial interest in a QAnon super PAC that advertises on 8chan, have led numerous journalists and conspiracy theory researchers to believe that Watkins[157] or his son, 8chan's former administrator Ron Watkins, work with Q, know Q's identity, or are Q.[46][158][159][160] Both Watkinses deny knowing Q's identity.[46][161] Documentary filmmaker Cullen Hoback spent three years with the Watkinses and Brennan, investigating the origins of QAnon and its connection to 8chan. In the last episode of Q: Into the Storm, the 2021 HBO docuseries he produced from this research, Hoback showed his final conversation with Ron Watkins, who stated on camera, "I've spent the past ... almost ten years, every day, doing this kind of research anonymously. Now I'm doing it publicly, that's the only difference. ... It was basically ... three years of intelligence training teaching normies how to do intelligence work. It was basically what I was doing anonymously before but never as Q". Watkins then corrected himself, saying, "Never as Q. I promise. Because I am not Q, and I never was."[162][163] Hoback viewed this as an inadvertent admission from Watkins, and concluded from this interview and his other research that Ron Watkins is Q.[164] Ron Watkins again denied being Q shortly before the series premiered.[165]

Accusations of being a psyop

In January 2021, after the storming of the Capitol, many prominent conservatives, such as Steve Bannon and Bill Still, began to denounce QAnon, accusing it of being a "psyop" created by U.S. Intelligence or the FBI.[166][167] In a leaked phone conversation, Michael Flynn, once among the highest-profile QAnon supporters, called QAnon a "disinformation campaign to make people look like a bunch of kooks."[168] Others have suggested that QAnon, and a similar conspiratorial movement in Ukraine, may have been created by Russian intelligence.[169][170]


QAnon may best be understood as an example of what historian Richard Hofstadter called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics", the title of his 1964 essay on religious millenarianism and apocalypticism.[7] QAnon's vocabulary echoes Christian tropes, such as the "Storm" (the Genesis flood narrative or Judgement Day) and the "Great Awakening" (evoking the reputed historical religious Great Awakenings of the early 18th century to the late 20th century). According to one QAnon video, the battle between Trump and "the cabal" is of "biblical proportions", a "fight for earth, of good versus evil". Some QAnon supporters say the forthcoming reckoning will be a "reverse rapture": not only the end of the world as we know it, but a new beginning, with salvation and utopia on earth for the survivors.[111]

Public opinion

In less than a year of existence, QAnon became significantly recognized by the general population. According to an August 2018 Qualtrics poll for The Washington Post, 58% of Floridians were familiar enough with QAnon to have an opinion about it. Of those who had an opinion, most were unfavorable. The average score on the feeling thermometer was just above 20, a very negative rating, and about half of what other political figures enjoy.[110][171] Positive feelings toward QAnon were found to be strongly correlated with being susceptible to conspiracy thinking.[171]

According to a March 2020 Pew survey, 76% of Americans said they had never heard of QAnon, 20% had heard "a little about it", and 3% said they had heard "a lot".[172][173] A September 2020 Pew survey of the 47% of respondents who said they had heard of QAnon found that 41% of Republicans and those who lean Republican believed QAnon is good for the country, while 7% of Democrats and those who lean Democratic believed that.[174]

An October 2020 Yahoo-YouGov poll found that even if they had not heard of QAnon, a majority of Republicans and Trump supporters believed top Democrats were engaged in sex-trafficking rings and more than half of Trump supporters believed he was working to dismantle the rings.[175]

Role of antisemitism

The Washington Post and The Forward magazine have called QAnon's targeting of Jewish figures like George Soros and the Rothschilds "striking anti-Semitic elements" and "garden-variety nonsense with racist and anti-Semitic undertones".[11][176] A Jewish Telegraphic Agency article in August 2018 asserted: "Some of QAnon's archetypical elements – including secret elites and kidnapped children, among others – are reflective of historical and ongoing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories."[12]

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that while "the vast majority of QAnon-inspired conspiracy theories have nothing to do with anti-Semitism", "an impressionistic review" of QAnon tweets about Israel, Jews, Zionists, the Rothschilds, and Soros "revealed some troubling examples" of antisemitism.[13]

An antisemitic canard published in 1903 called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has intersected with QAnon conspiracy theories, with Republican QAnon fan Mary Ann Mendoza retweeting a Twitter thread about the Rothschild family, Satanic High Priestesses, and American presidents saying, "The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion is not a fabrication. And, it certainly is not anti-Semitic to point out this fact."[177][178] Mendoza sits on the advisory board of Women for Trump and was scheduled to speak at the 2020 Republican convention until news of her Twitter activity came out;[179] she later denied knowing the content of the thread, although anti-Semitic references appeared in the first few tweets.[180] Similarly, Trump has denied knowledge of QAnon except that QAnon fans like him and "love our country".[181]

By 2020, QAnon followers were advancing the notion that Hollywood elites were engaging in "adrenochrome harvesting", in which adrenalin is extracted from children's blood to produce the psychoactive drug adrenochrome. Adrenochrome harvesting is rooted in antisemitic myths of blood libel.[182][183][184] QAnon believers have also promoted a centuries-old antisemitic trope about an international banking conspiracy orchestrated by the Rothschild family.[185]

Genocide scholar Gregory Stanton described QAnon as a "Nazi group rebranded", and its theories as a rebranded version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[186][187]

An April 2021 Morning Consult poll found that 49% of Americans who believe in QAnon agree with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and that 78% of Americans who agree with the Protocols also believe in QAnon.[188]


Experts have classified QAnon's appeal as comparable to those of religious cults.[6] According to an expert in online conspiracy, Renee DiResta, QAnon's pattern of enticement is similar to that of cults in the pre-Internet era where, as the targeted person was led deeper and deeper into the group's secrets, they become increasingly isolated from friends and family outside the cult.[189] Online support groups developed for those whose loved ones were drawn into QAnon, notably the subreddit r/QAnonCasualties, which grew from 3,500 participants in June 2020 to 28,000 by October.[190] In the Internet age, QAnon virtual communities have little "real world" connection with each other, but online they can number in the tens of thousands.[189] Rachel Bernstein, an expert on cults who specializes in recovery therapy, said, "What a movement such as QAnon has going for it, and why it will catch on like wildfire, is that it makes people feel connected to something important that other people don't yet know about. ... All cults will provide this feeling of being special." There is no self-correction process within the group, since the self-reinforcing true believers are immune to correction, fact-checking, or counter-speech, which is drowned out by the cult's groupthink.[189] QAnon's cultish quality has led to its characterization as a possible emerging religious movement.[46][191][192][193][194] It has also been called a syncretic movement.[195]

Jake Angeli, a prominent proponent of QAnon and stormer at the U.S. Capitol attack,[196] carrying a "Q Sent Me" placard

Part of its appeal is its gamelike quality, in which followers attempt to solve riddles presented in Qdrops by connecting them to Trump speeches and tweets and other sources.[34] Some followers use a "Q clock" consisting of a wheel of concentric dials to decode clues based on the timing of Qdrops and Trump's tweets.[46] Travis View, a researcher who studies QAnon, says that it is as addictive as a video game, and offers the "player" the appealing possibility of being involved in something of world-historical importance. According to View, "You can sit at your computer and search for information and then post about what you find, and Q basically promises that through this process, you are going to radically change the country, institute this incredible, almost bloodless revolution, and then be part of this historical movement that will be written about for generations." View compares this to mundane political involvement in which one's efforts might help to get a state legislator elected. QAnon, says View, competes not in the marketplace of ideas, but in the marketplace of realities.[197]

Conspiracy theories have tended to make headway in times of societal uncertainty, and help people to feel more in control in the face of disturbing information. Survey data showed in late 2020 that a quarter of those who knew about QAnon think there's some truth to it. In a conspiracy theory environment, primary institutions of society that once served as trusted impartial authorities are easily rejected if they contradict the conspiracy's beliefs, making it very difficult to counter a believer's thinking.[198]


Some QAnon believers realize that they have been isolated from loved ones, and suffer loneliness. This leads some to abandon the beliefs, but for others reinforces the benefits of belonging to the cult. View says:

People in the QAnon community often talk about alienation from family and friends. ... Though they typically talk about how Q frayed their relationships on private Facebook groups. But they think these issues are temporary and primarily the fault of others. They often comfort themselves by imagining that there will be a moment of vindication sometime in the near future which will prove their beliefs right. They imagine that after this happens, not only will their relationships be restored, but people will turn to them as leaders who understand what's going on better than the rest of us.[199]

Some followers break away when they recognize the theories are inconsistent, or see that some elements are aimed at driving donations from sources such as evangelical or conservative Christians. Some watch Q-debunking videos; one former believer said that the videos "saved" her.[199]

Disillusionment can also come from the failure of the theories' predictions. Q predicted Republican success in the 2018 US midterm elections and claimed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was involved in secret work for Trump, with apparent tensions between them a cover. When Democrats made significant gains and Trump fired Sessions, there was disillusionment among many in the Q community.[200][201] Further disillusionment came when a predicted December 5 mass arrest and imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay detention camp of Trump's enemies did not occur, nor did the dismissal of charges against Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn. For some, these failures began the process of separation from the QAnon cult, while others urged direct action in the form of an insurrection against the government. Such a response to a failed prophecy is not unusual: apocalyptic cults such as Heaven's Gate, the People's Temple, the Manson Family, and Aum Shinrikyo resorted to mass suicide or mass murder when their expectations for revelations or the fulfillment of their prophecies did not materialize. Psychologist Robert Lifton calls it "forcing the end". This phenomenon is being seen among some QAnon believers.[199] View echoes the concern that disillusioned QAnon believers might take matters into their own hands[111] as Pizzagate believer Edgar Maddison Welch did in 2016, Matthew Phillip Wright did at Hoover Dam in 2018, and Anthony Comello did in 2019, when he murdered Mafia boss Frank Cali, believing himself to be under Trump's protection.

QAnon follower Liz Crokin, who in 2018 asserted that John F. Kennedy Jr. faked his death and is now Q,[202] said in February 2019 that she was losing patience in Trump to arrest the supposed members of the child sex ring, suggesting that the time was approaching for "vigilante justice".[203] Other followers have adopted the Kennedy conspiracy theory, asserting that a Pittsburgh man named Vincent Fusca is Kennedy in disguise and would be Trump's 2020 running mate. Some attended 2019 Independence Day celebrations in Washington expecting Kennedy to appear.[204][205] In November 2021, hundreds gathered in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the site of President Kennedy's assassination, believing they would witness the return of both Kennedys. Attendees expected the event would herald Trump's reinstatement as president, and that Trump would step down to allow Kennedy, Jr. to become president, and that Kennedy would name Michael Flynn as his vice president.[206][207]

The Sabmyk Network is a network of Telegram channels promoting QAnon that primarily targets QAnon believers who have been disillusioned by Q's predictions' failure to happen.[208] Set up by controversial German artist Sebastian Bieniek, the network (described as a new religion or cult) shares mainline QAnon beliefs[209] but also believes in an idiosyncratic mythology surrounding a leader-prophet, Sabmyk, who will lead humanity's "awakening".[208] The network has tried to link Trump to Sabmyk.[209]


Since the movement's emergence in 2018, adherents have been involved in a number of controversial and violent events, resulting in the filing of criminal charges and one conviction for terrorism.


Media, advocacy groups, and public figures

On December 28, 2017, the Russian television network RT aired a segment discussing "QAnon revelations", calling the anonymous poster a "secret intelligence operative inside the Trump administration known by QAnon".[75]

On March 13, 2018, Cheryl Sullenger, the vice president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, called QAnon a "small group of insiders close to President Donald J. Trump" and called their posts the "highest level of intelligence to ever be dropped publicly in our known history".[210][211] On March 15, Kyiv-based Rabochaya Gazeta, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Ukraine, published an article calling QAnon a "military intelligence group".[212] On March 31, actor Roseanne Barr appeared to promote QAnon, which was subsequently covered by CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.[213][214][215][216]

On June 28, 2018, a Time magazine article listed Q among the 25 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2018. Counting more than 130,000 related discussion videos on YouTube, Time cited the wide range of the conspiracy theory and its more prominent followers and news coverage.[217] On July 4, the Hillsborough County Republican Party shared on its official Facebook and Twitter accounts a YouTube video on QAnon, calling them a "mysterious anonymous inside leaker of deep state activities and counter activities by President Trump". The posts were soon deleted.[218]

On August 1, 2018, following the previous day's large presence of QAnon supporters at Trump's Tampa, Florida rally for the midterm elections,[11][219] MSNBC news anchors Hallie Jackson, Brian Williams, and Chris Hayes dedicated a portion of their respective programs to the conspiracy theory.[220][221][222] PBS NewsHour also ran a segment on QAnon the next day.[223] On August 2, Washington Post editorial writer Molly Roberts wrote, "'The storm' QAnon truthers predict will never strike because the conspiracy that obsesses them doesn't exist. But while they wait for it, they'll try to whip up the winds, and the rest of us will struggle to find shelter."[224] On August 4, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked to comment on QAnon in his "ask me anything" session on the /r/The Donald subreddit. In response to the question "Is Q legit?", Spicer answered "No."[225]

Official response

FBI domestic terrorism assessment

A May 30, 2019, FBI "Intelligence Bulletin" memo from the Phoenix Field Office identified QAnon-driven extremists as a domestic terrorism threat. The document cited a number of arrests related to QAnon, some of which had not been publicized before.[226] According to the memo, "This is the first FBI product examining the threat from conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists and provides a baseline for future intelligence products. ... The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts."[226][227]

According to FBI's counterterrorism director Michael G. McGarrity's testimony before Congress in May, the FBI divides domestic terrorism threats into four primary categories, "racially motivated violent extremism, anti-government/anti-authority extremism, animal rights/environmental extremism, and abortion extremism", which includes both pro-choice and anti-abortion extremists. The fringe conspiracy theory threat is closely related to the anti-government/anti-authority subject area.[226][227]

An under-reported QAnon-related incident was mentioned in the memo: the December 19, 2018, arrest of a California man whose car contained bomb-making materials he intended to use to "blow up a satanic temple monument" in the Springfield, Illinois, Capitol rotunda to "make Americans aware of Pizzagate and the New World Order, who were dismantling society". According to the same source, the FBI said another factor driving the intensity of this threat is "the uncovering of real conspiracies or cover-ups involving illegal, harmful, or unconstitutional activities by government officials or leading political figures".[226]

QAnon followers' reactions included the suggestion the memo was fake, calling for the firing of FBI director Christopher A. Wray for working against Trump, and the idea that the memo was actually a "wink-and-a-nod" way of attracting attention to QAnon and tricking the media into asking Trump about it.[228] At a Trump reelection rally several hours after the memo's existence became known, WalkAway campaign founder Brandon Straka, a gay man who claims to have been a liberal Democrat but is now a Trump supporter, addressed the crowd using one of QAnon's primary rallying cries, "Where we go one, we go all." A videographer found numerous QAnon supporters in the crowd, identified by their QAnon shirts showing large "Q"'s or "WWG1WGA".[42]

Congressional resolution

On August 25, 2020, two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat Tom Malinowski and Republican Denver Riggleman, introduced a bipartisan simple resolution (H. Res. 1154) condemning QAnon and rejecting its conspiracy theories.[229][230] Malinowski said the resolution's aim was to formally repudiate "this dangerous, anti-Semitic, conspiracy-mongering cult that the FBI says is radicalizing Americans to violence".[229] The resolution also urged the FBI and other law enforcement and homeland security agencies "to continue to strengthen their focus on preventing violence, threats, harassment, and other criminal activity by extremists motivated by fringe political conspiracy theories" and encouraged the U.S. Intelligence Community "to uncover any foreign support, assistance, or online amplification QAnon receives, as well as any QAnon affiliations, coordination, and contacts with foreign extremist organizations or groups espousing violence".[230]

In September 2020, Malinowski received death threats from QAnon followers after being falsely accused of wanting to protect sexual predators. The threats were prompted by a National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) campaign advertisement that falsely claimed that Malinowski worked against plans to increase registration for sex offenders in a 2006 crime bill while he was working as a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch.[231][232][233]

The resolution passed on October 2, 2020, in a 371–18 vote.[230][231] Seventeen Republicans (including Steve King, Paul A. Gosar, and Daniel Webster) and one independent (Justin Amash) voted no; Republican Andy Harris voted "present".[230][231][234] The resolution does not have the force of law.[234] Before the vote, Malinowski told Slate magazine, referencing the NRCC ad: "I don't want to see any Republicans voting against fire on the House floor this week and then continuing to play with fire next week by running these kinds of ads against Democratic candidates."[235]

Republican politicians and organizations

2019 congressional candidates

Two Republican congressional candidates in 2019 expressed interest in QAnon theories. Matthew Lusk, a Florida candidate, told The Daily Beast he was not a "brainwashed cult member", saying QAnon theories are a "legitimate something" and constitute a "very articulate screening of past events, a very articulate screening of present conditions, and a somewhat prophetic divination of where the political and geopolitical ball will be bouncing next".[236] Danielle Stella, running as a Republican to unseat Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, wore a "Q" necklace in a photo she tweeted[237] and twice used the hashtag #WWG1WGA, a reference to the QAnon motto "where we go one, we go all". Her Twitter account "liked" responses from QAnon believers who acknowledged the necklace, and the account follows some prominent QAnon believers. A former campaign aide asserted that Stella was merely posing as a QAnon believer to attract voter support.[238][239]

Other 2020 electoral candidates and members of Congress

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a businesswoman, won an August 2020 runoff to become the GOP nominee in the heavily Republican 14th Congressional District in Georgia. Months into the Trump presidency, she had stated in a video: "There's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it."[240] She has made racist and antisemitic statements, which led Republican leaders such as Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise to condemn her remarks.[241][242] Trump endorsed her candidacy the day after her nomination, characterizing her as a "future Republican Star" and "a real WINNER!"[243][244]

After Greene won a primary runoff election in Georgia in August, Illinois Republican representative Adam Kinzinger denounced QAnon, calling it a "fabrication".[245] Trump campaign staffer Matt Wolking responded aggressively to Kinzinger, saying, "he should condemn the Steele Dossier and conspiracy theories promoted by Democrats."[246] Kinzinger went on to create a political action committee, "Country First," launched just weeks after the January 2021 storming of the Capitol, dedicated to fighting the influence of conspiracy theories within the GOP.[247]

Jo Rae Perkins, the 2020 Republican Senate candidate in Oregon, tweeted a video on the night of her May primary victory showing her holding a WWG1WGA sticker and stating, "I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons, and thank you patriots. And together, we can save our republic." She expressed regret at having later deleted the video on the advice of a political consultant.[248][249][250] The next month she tweeted a video of her taking the "digital soldiers oath" that Q had requested followers to do three days earlier.[251][50]

On June 30, 2020, incumbent Republican U.S. representative Scott Tipton lost a primary for Colorado's 3rd congressional district to Lauren Boebert in an upset. Boebert expressed tentative support for QAnon in an interview, but after winning the primary, attempted to distance herself from those statements, saying "I'm not a follower."[252][253] In July 2020, Business Insider reported, "At least 10 GOP Congressional candidates have signaled their support for the QAnon movement."[254] Boebert was elected to Congress the following November.[255]

In September 2020, political newcomer Lauren Witzke defeated a party-endorsed candidate to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Delaware. Witzke has promoted QAnon on Twitter and been photographed wearing a Q t-shirt, although during the campaign she distanced herself from the movement. She has also called herself a "flat-earther" and in September called her Democratic opponent Chris Coons a "Christian-hating baby-killer", adding "I'm coming for your seat, Satanist."[256][257] In the November general election, Coons defeated Witzke, 59–38%.[258]

Angela Stanton-King, a Trump-backed candidate running for the Georgia House seat of the late congressman John Lewis, posted on Twitter that Black Lives Matter is "a major cover up for PEDOPHILIA and HUMAN TRAFFICKING" and "THE STORM IS HERE". Stanton-King told a reporter that her posts did not relate to QAnon, asserting, "It was raining that day." Weather records did not show precipitation in her area on the day of the post.[259]

Texas Republican Party

In August 2020, The New York Times suggested that the Texas Republican Party had chosen a new slogan taken directly from QAnon. Texas Republican Party officials denied this and claimed that the slogan ("We Are the Storm") was inspired by a biblical passage and has no connection to QAnon.[260][261]

Trump and connected individuals

Donald Trump

According to analysis by Media Matters, as of August 20, 2020, Trump had amplified QAnon messaging at least 216 times by retweeting or mentioning 129 QAnon-affiliated Twitter accounts, sometimes multiple times a day.[44][45] On November 26, 2017, Trump retweeted a post by Twitter account @MAGAPILL, a self-styled "official President Donald Trump accomplishment list" and major QAnon proponent, less than a month after QAnon first started posting.[110] On September 9, 2019, Trump retweeted a video from the QAnon-promoting Twitter account "The Dirty Truth". The video featured future director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe criticizing former FBI director James Comey.[262] On August 24, 2018, Trump hosted William "Lionel" Lebron, a leading QAnon promoter, in the Oval Office for a photo op.[263][264][265] Shortly after Christmas 2019, Trump retweeted over a dozen QAnon followers.[266]

On August 19, 2020, Trump was asked about QAnon during a press conference; he replied: "I don't know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate. But I don't know much about the movement."[267] An FBI Field Office in Phoenix has called QAnon a potential domestic terror threat, but Trump called QAnon adherents "people who love our country".[268][267] When a reporter asked Trump if he could support a notion that suggests he "is secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals", he responded: "Well, I haven't heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?" Presidential candidate Joe Biden responded that Trump was aiming to "legitimize a conspiracy theory that the FBI has identified as a domestic terrorism threat".[269][270]

On October 15, 2020, when given the opportunity to denounce QAnon at a "town hall"-style campaign event, Trump refused to do so and instead pointed out that QAnon opposes pedophilia.[271] He said he knew nothing else about QAnon and told his questioner, Savannah Guthrie of NBC News, that no one can know whether the premise of QAnon's conspiracy theory is true. "They believe it is a satanic cult run by the deep state," Guthrie informed him. When Guthrie asserted that the conspiracy was not true, Trump responded, "No, I don't know that. And neither do you know that."[272]

Mike Pence

Two soldiers meeting Pence on a tarmac
U.S. vice president Mike Pence with members of the SWAT team of Broward County, Florida, on November 30, 2018; the man on the left of the image is displaying a red and black "Q" patch used by believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory. The photo was tweeted, removed, and then replaced in Pence's feed.
Detail of one soldier's uniform, showing a patch with a black "Q" on a red background, and a second patch with a black field bearing an axe and scythe crossed over one another
Detail from the photo showing the QAnon patch. The black-and-white patch to the left has been reported to be that of the SWAT team. Regulations forbid wearing either patch, and the deputy was reprimanded and removed from the SWAT team as a result.[273]

On August 21, 2020, Vice President Mike Pence said that he "doesn't know anything about" QAnon except that it is a conspiracy theory that he dismisses "out of hand".[274] When asked whether he would acknowledge the administration's role in "giving oxygen" to the belief, Pence shook his head and said, "Give me a break."[274] In August 2020, Pence said that the problem with the press asking about QAnon and about anyone's apparent efforts to encourage it is that the press is asking the wrong questions ("chasing shiny objects").[275]

Michael Flynn

In August 2019, a "Digital Soldiers Conference" was announced for the following month in Atlanta. The stated purpose was to prepare "patriotic social media warriors" for a coming "digital civil war". The announcement for the event prominently displayed a Q spelled in stars on the blue field of an American flag. Scheduled speakers for the event included former Trump aides Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, as well as Gina Loudon, a Trump friend and member of his campaign media advisory board, singer Joy Villa, and Bill Mitchell, a radio host and ardent Trump supporter.[149][276] The host of the event, Rich Granville, is CEO of Yippy, Inc., a firm that markets the Yippy search engine, which it claims is free of censorship of conservative views, characterizing it as an "intelligence enterprise" with high-level White House connections. He told a reporter, "you don't know who you're fucking with" and denied the Q flag was a reference to QAnon, though he had had numerous references to QAnon on his Twitter account.[277]

On July 4, 2020, Michael Flynn (the former lieutenant general, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Security Advisor to Trump) posted to his Twitter account a video of himself leading a small group in an oath with the QAnon motto, "Where we go one, we go all."[278] Analysts say the oath is part of QAnon's attempt to organize "digital soldiers" for the political and social apocalypse they see coming. Flynn's apparent declaration of allegiance to QAnon makes him the most prominent former government official to endorse the conspiracy theory, although Trump has retweeted or mentioned at least 152 QAnon-affiliated Twitter accounts at least 265 times, according to analysis conducted by Media Matters.[279][44]

Flynn's attorney Sidney Powell denied the oath related to QAnon, saying it was merely a statement engraved on a bell on John F. Kennedy's sailboat. But during preceding days numerous QAnon followers had taken the same so-called "digital soldier oath" on Twitter, using the same #TakeTheOath hashtag Flynn did.[280][281]

In March 2021, Flynn's brother, retired lieutenant general Jack Flynn, and his wife filed a $75 million defamation suit against CNN, alleging the network had falsely accused them of being QAnon followers. They asserted that the video Flynn had posted in July 2020, and which CNN had broadcast, depicted their pledging an oath to the Constitution, rather than to QAnon. The suit claimed Flynn alone had recited the QAnon motto, "where we go one, we go all", though the video showed all the other participants had done so. The plaintiffs also said they "are not followers or supporters of any extremist or terrorist groups, including QAnon".[282][283][279] In December 2021, federal district court judge Gregory Howard Woods largely rejected CNN's motion to dismiss the case, allowing it to proceed to determine whether the Flynns had been portrayed in a false light.[284]

Other Trump associates

On three occasions during 2019 and 2020, Trump's deputy chief of staff and social media director Dan Scavino tweeted ticking-clock memes QAnon believers use to signify the countdown until the "Storm".[260] Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has also occasionally retweeted posts with the #QAnon hashtag and of the limited number of accounts he follows (224 as of October 2019) many are QAnon advocates.[45][285] Eric Trump, in a summer 2020 tweet (later deleted), promoted his father's rally in Tulsa with an image of a large "Q" and the text "Where we go one, we go all."[286]

Online platforms

Publishing of personal information

On March 14, 2018, Reddit banned one of its communities discussing QAnon, /r/CBTS_Stream, for "encouraging or inciting violence and posting personal and confidential information".[287] After that, some followers moved to Discord.[288] Several other communities were formed for discussion of QAnon, leading to further bans on September 12, 2018, in response to these communities "inciting violence, harassment, and the dissemination of personal information", which led to thousands of adherents regrouping on Voat,[289] a Switzerland-based Reddit clone that has been described as a hub for the alt-right.[290][291]

QDrops app

QDrops, an app that promoted the conspiracy theory, was published on the Apple App Store and Google Play.[292] It became the most popular paid app in Apple's online store's the "entertainment" section in April 2018, and the tenth-most popular paid app overall. It was published by Tiger Team Inc., a North Carolina couple, Richard and Adalita Brown.[293][294][295] On July 15, 2018, Apple pulled the app after an inquiry from NBC News.[296]

In mid-May 2020, Google removed three other apps – QMAP, Q Alerts! and Q Alerts LITE – from the Android app store for violating terms.[297][298]

Removal of related content

In early 2019, Twitter removed accounts suspected of being connected to the Russian Internet Research Agency that had disseminated a high volume of tweets related to #QAnon that also used the #WWG1WGA slogan.[16]

On May 5, 2020, Facebook announced its removal of five pages, twenty accounts, and six groups linked to "individuals associated with the QAnon network" as part of an investigation into "suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior" ahead of the 2020 United States election.[299][300] On August 19, Facebook expanded its Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy to address "growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior". As a result of this increased vigilance, Facebook reported having already "removed over 790 groups, 100 Pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon from Facebook, blocked over 300 hashtags across Facebook and Instagram, and additionally imposed restrictions on over 1,950 Groups and 440 Pages on Facebook and over 10,000 accounts on Instagram".[301][302][303] In the first month after its August announcement, Facebook said it deleted 1,500 QAnon groups; such groups by then had four million followers. On October 6, 2020, Facebook said it would immediately begin removing "any Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content". The company said it would immediately ban any group representing QAnon.[304][305][306]

On July 21, 2020, Twitter announced it was banning more than seven thousand accounts in connection with QAnon for coordinated amplification of fake news and conspiracy theories. In a press release, Twitter said, "We've been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called 'QAnon' activity across the service." It also said that the actions may apply to over 150,000 accounts.[307][308]

Facebook banned all QAnon groups and pages on October 6, 2020. That day, QAnon followers speculated that the action was part of a complex Trump administration strategy to begin arresting its enemies, or that Facebook was attempting to silence news of this occurring; neither is true. Some followers speculated that a Justice Department "national security" news conference scheduled for the next day would relate to charges against Democrats, including Hillary Clinton. The Justice Department actually announced the investigation and arrest of Islamic State members.[309]

On October 7, 2020, it was announced that Etsy would remove all QAnon-related merchandise from its online marketplace.[310]

In an October 12, 2020, interview with CNN, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said much QAnon material was "borderline content" that did not explicitly break its rules, but that changes in the site's methodology for recommendations had reduced views of QAnon-related content by 80%.[311] Three days later, YouTube announced that it had modified its hate and harassment policies to bar "content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence", such as QAnon and Pizzagate.[312][313] It would still allow content discussing QAnon if it did not target individuals.[314]

Hashtags and accounts associated with QAnon have since been banned by numerous social networks including Facebook,[315][316] Twitter,[317] TikTok,[318] and Instagram.[319]

QAnon-related merchandise was widely available on Amazon's online marketplace in 2018;[108] in 2019, a pro-QAnon work by 12 QAnon adherents neared the top of Amazon's bestsellers list, possibly through algorithmic manipulation.[320][321][322] In 2020, Politico noted that 100 titles associated with QAnon were available on Amazon marketplace, in many different languages and with generally positive reviews.[323] QAnon-related merchandise was also available on Etsy and Teespring, and pages relating to the conspiracy theory were on Patreon and GoFundMe.[324] Amazon removed the pro-QAnon book after the Capitol riots, and many of these platforms took action against QAnon-related content after the incident.[324] But merchandise relating to QAnon was still available on Etsy in 2021, after the riots.[325]

Efforts to defuse QAnon

Suggestions for making progress responding to QAnon and reducing its impact on society have included actions for individuals on social media and the social media platform companies;[326] some social media forums, such as the subreddits r/QAnonCasualties and r/ReQovery, aim to assist either former believers and supporters of QAnon conspiracies or those whose family members engaged in the conspiracy.[198] An online game, Go Viral!, has been developed that helps players understand how misinformation spreads, in part due to research showing that people who understand those mechanisms are less likely to be hooked themselves, although Go Viral! was developed specifically for COVID-19 misinformation.[327]

See also


  1. ^ The term originally referred to the anonymous poster "Q", but some media outlets have started to use the compound "QAnon" as a collective term for either the conspiracy theory or the community driving and discussing it.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d Bracewell, Lorna (January 21, 2021). "Gender, Populism, and the QAnon Conspiracy Movement". Frontiers in Sociology. Frontiers Media. 5: 615727. doi:10.3389/fsoc.2020.615727. ISSN 2297-7775. PMC 8022489. PMID 33869533. S2CID 231654586.
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